Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Prussian Journals: Anonymous NCO at Lobostiz

The Von Schmalen's engraving of IR 3 

Dear Reader,

The following correspondence is from a NCO in the Alt-Anhalt Regiment (IR 3) describing the Battle of Lobositz, on October 1st, 1756. This source comes from Curt Jany's Urkundliche Beiträge, a massive source collection published in 1901. Any mistakes in translation are mine.                 

"On the 30th of September, our column broke camp at Türmitz at 6am, but a heavy fog delayed our start until 10am, since we had to connect with our column from Gartiz. We marched with renewed vigor through the area of Wellemin over a height, the king himself with a few persons performed a reconnaissance, and met with an enemy forward post of 50 men. A hussar tried to press the matter by shooting at the King with his pistol, but it failed him both times. So God protected his anointed. The King was aware of the attempted shots, and because of firing, and the darkness (it was after 7pm) the King withdrew. He ordered that our regiment should advance to the front. This was done, but the enemy did not stand and fight. Many regiments remained standing ready, and our regiment pulled back through Wellemin and another hill with another part of our column. so that we halted about 10pm. Our whole army remained under the open sky, and passed the night in cold and hunger. About midnight, Lt. von Krosigk asked me if I would bring up the blankets and packhorses, in order for us to be warm. I walked around for almost an hour in order to try and resist the cold, now and then stopping around a fire, and I came to a carriage guarded by four grenadiers. Immediately I heard the sound of several hundred muskets discharging. The king stuck his head out of the carriage and asked, "what is that?" A grenadier answered, "the enemy are attacking our people." Because I was somewhat removed from the regiment, I made my way back. We afterwards learned that some of the regiment of Quadt and Manteuffel made an error in the dark and stumbled onto some of the Austrian outposts. I brought my Lieutenant no blankets, but my Tornister served us as a pillow, with the earth as our bed, and the heavens as our blanket.

With the coming of morning on October 1st, our army left the camp where it had experienced hunger, thirst, and cold, and in addition  at 8am endured some rain which came in between the mountain and the valley. The King placed the infantry in two lines and the cavalry in reserve. Our left flank consisting of the grenadiers and regiments Itzenplitz, Manteuffel, etc, marched into high ground with vineyards, but had highly sour work, the like of which you will read in almost no war stories. They marched loosely, finding enemies in hollow ways, deep trenches, and behind walls, and purchased every step with precious Prussian blood. Their work lasted from 8am to 2pm, in constant fire without the slightest cessation. Our left wing had really almost given way,  as its 60 cartridges had been shot away, therefore from the right wing, 30 cartridges from each man were sent during an opportunity from our regiment. During this transfer, 2 men were killed and 2 men were wounded. After 2pm, they succeeded with God's help, the enemy were driven from the hilltop through the town of Lobositz, on the Elbe. The Markgraf of Baden-Baden was responsible for the pursuit, and set his cavalry on the infantry. But before it could come to this, our cavalry had to pass through our infantry and attack the Austrian cavalry. Because they stood in the way of much cannon fire, they had to retreat in disorder and they halted at the foot of the mountain under the protection of our regiment. They attacked again and put to enemy's cavalry to flight. The King stopped behind me and asked the adjutant, "what is that?" He responded, " The Austrian cavalry is in retreat." The king then took his eyeglass and said to FM Keith, when he found the adjutant was correct, "Sir, the battle is won." I could see with my eyes that he was correct. The Austrian cavalry withdrew from hollow way, and the Austrian infantry of the second line were forced to move, so the cavalry could pass by. Our cavalry hesitated, as they saw many enemy soldiers still capable of resistance in front of them, and still were receiving fire from two artillery batteries. So they fled in the greatest disorder. The king cried, "Front" but it was "Surdis narratur fabula," (a story told to the deaf)  and they rode up to the mountain in ones and twos. The King sent the adjutant Count Frederick to them and commanded them to once more attack, and said to us, "Take heed what the officers command, don't let the cavalry through, shoot them down." Thereupon Count Frederick returned, and said to the Colonel, "What has ruined the cavalry, that the infantry have improved and become gentlemen? You fellows, you will again do well!" So he pushed through our battalion and brought the King a report, but I could not understand what he said.  

The King said to FM Keith, "We want to move out and attack." FM Keith objected, and the attack was aborted. Finally, the King allowed our ruined and battered cavalry to withdraw behind the infantry, but they did not remain there long. For our left wing had moved further into the hills, moving with both the first and second line, but as this was not long enough, they were joined by the cavalry of the first line, but this cavalry remained as inactive as the cavalry on our right wing. Meanwhile, the Austrian cavalry moved into the village of Sullowitz, where the Margraf had a beautiful animal park, and then came through and made as if they were going to attack us. Then the gunners of our battalion set the village on fire with two cannon shots. In this way, the enemy cavalry was forced from the village, they moved hastily out of the village in the utmost disorder. Our Green Hussars stood at the foot of the mountain, some Austrian hussars hunted and provoked them. Ours gave fire at the same, without injuring them. 

Our right wing had been watching for several hours, when finally our left wing managed to dislodge its enemies, which consisted of 3,000 pandours and eight grenadier battalions. The greater portion of these enemies fled into Lobostiz, but since they came under our cannon fire, fled in great disorder through their remaining cavalry and infantry. Now our army received new life, as our long serving and experienced officers, who had been in doubt about the outcome of the battle, realized that all was going to be well.  Our army was quite small, only about 28,000 men, while according to rumor the enemy numbered 66,000 men. The enemy wounded and prisoners swore firmly to this, and unanimously agreed. For the most part, our infantry had not had anything since September 30th, and had fought a Battle on October 1st. The horses and cavalry had not eaten in 48 hours and had only had water once. On the other hand, the enemy had on the 30th been given some wine, and their officers had made them great promises for bravery. They also were promised great plunder should they come to Brandenburg. Notwithstanding God and our just cause, our impoverished people would have been prostrated before a strong enemy."

While this NCO, name, alas unknown, gets some of the details wrong in terms of number, (there were 29,000 Prussians and 34,000 Austrians at this battle) he still provides many interesting details which given insight into the operations of the Prussian army. 

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns 

1 comment:

  1. Alex, where does this uniform plate come from? I'd like to find the on line source.